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Constipation is characterised by fewer than three bowel movements per week

By Faith Kariuki Biongo | Published Sun, April 29th 2018 at 00:00, Updated April 28th 2018 at 20:13 GMT +3
Colon or colorectal cancer concept as a medical illustration of a large intestine with a malignant tumor growth disease of the digestive system as a 3D illustration.

Gastro-intestinal problems like constipation are a common and affect many people.

 As a result, most of these conditions go unnoticed, are viewed as normal and most people will self-medicate with over-the-counter drugs.

Constipation and other similar conditions do not always mean you have a serious problem, but not everything should be overlooked.

Since gastrointestinal problems affect the same organs, signs and symptoms of both serious and mild conditions are largely the same.

Constipation is characterised by fewer than three bowel movements per week or bowel movement with dry hard stool that is difficult and painful to pass. It can occur as a result of several factors, including
1. Change in diet
2. Poor nutrition practices
3. Dehydration
4. Lack of physical activity
5. Stress


Persistent constipation can be a symptom of a serious underlying condition like colorectal cancer.

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 The appearance of your stool can be a good indicator of what is happening inside your body.

 For example, thin, narrow or ribbon like stool could indicate change in your colon. In colon cancer, a tumor or a scar tissue can cause blockage in the large intestine obstructing bowel movement which results in constipation.

Chronic constipation has also been linked to increased risk of developing colon and rectal cancer in several studies.

In a study published by the American College of Gastroenterology, researchers found that colon and rectal cancer are more prevalent in people who experience chronic constipation compared to those who do not, with the risk being almost twice as high in those with chronic constipation. 

The association between chronic constipation and increased colon cancer risk is thought to be due to the long transit time of waste which increases the duration of contact between the colon lining and concentrated carcinogens such as bile acids in this waste. 

Proper management and treatment of constipation cannot be over emphasised. Without treatment, constipation can cause internal damage to the intestines or rectum increasing the risk of other health problems.

Proper management of constipation can also lead to early detection of colon and rectal cancer.

Early detection is associated with better treatment outcome and increased relative survival rate.


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